Sunday, February 27, 2005

Frozen Snot Century--(looong)

This weekend was the Frozen Snot Century. Friday, about five people rode down from Milwaukee to Chicago (about 100 miles). Then Saturday morning they were escorted back to the land of cheese and beer by Chicagoans. On Sunday the FIBS part company and head back to Chi-town. So if you do the Chicago-Milwaukee-Chicago trip it ends up being about 200 miles in two days. Back-to-back centuries. The most I have ridden before in a day was 60-70 miles--and this was in the summer when I was biking about 100 miles a week. Now I bike less than 40 per week. gulp.

Some helpful pointers on how NOT to do a century:
  • Don't get only two hours of sleep,
  • Don't be hung-over,
  • Don't be dehyrated,
  • Don't get more dehydrated,
  • Don't pack in only 5 minutes,
  • Don't forget your rainpants, and
  • Don't ride a bike that's too big.


I woke up and realized that it was 7:00 and people were already at the restaurant for breakfast. [some times refusing to use an alarm clock causes problems]. My mind frantically kicked into 'holy shit' mode and I tried to figure what needed to be done, and what wouldn't be. I quickly packed and rustled around looking for my biking gloves and trying to figure out what to wear/bring. I also quickly discovered that I was hung-over and felt like shit. Stupid, stupid.

At the restaurant everyone was finishing eating so I only ordered hashbrowns and inhaled them along with a glass of water before we hit the road. The consensus was that I was going to be in a world of hurt. This wasn't true for the first 60 miles--I felt great and was the strongest woman rider besides super-racing-Susan. The miles just rolled behind me, I felt great and I sang "Midnight Train to Georgia" (or at least the 2-3 phrases I know) as I rode.

There were three basic groups: racers/messengers, normal-fast, normal-slow. The groups sometimes leapfrogged during breaks and some people switched groups during lunch. The groups also sometimes splintered and reconnected. I was in the normal-fast group the whole trip.

We ate lunch around mile 60 and then stopped in a parking lot for people to pee, bag their feet....... I couldn't believe that we had only rode 10 miles since lunch, because it felt much farther. We stayed in the parking lot way too long and I got cold--then the people we were waiting for left while John was tying his shoe. We missed some lights and soon they were just specks ahead of me, John and Grant. For some reason I decided to lead the line and kept doing so even after I started feeling really shitty. This was the hardest leg of the ride because it is all hills. I couldn't keep up even when I was drafting and felt horrible, weak and completely lacking energy. My hip muscles felt like goo. Grant slowed down to try to keep with me, but I just couldn't do it and felt like I wanted to cry. I told him that I was dropping myself and to just go.

For the next hilly miserable, miserable mile or two I road far behind G and J and noticed that they had caught up with Jessica, Sarah and Sam (riding a trip-high tallbike). Jessica didn't seem to be doing well and earlier in the day she dropped herself from Grant and me to catch the normal-slow group.

Grant and John pulled her for awhile before she dropped back and pulled over. I climbed up to her and we shared our misery. I also drank some water and realized that I was super-dehydrated and had only had two glasses of water that day--and I didn't drink water after boozing the night before. I drank about half of my slushy water bottle and started to feel better. Jessica seemed really weak, so I pulled her for the next several miles--it was hard, but my misery was lessening. Finally, up ahead, I saw Sarah's hazard yellow jacket glowing like a beacon ahead. We picked up the pace and caught her and Sam a while later. They weren't feeling great either and we were still about 20 miles away from our destination. Together we rode in a quiet line--we all felt like shit. Sarah was the strongest and pulled the most.

Sam needed to get off of his bike again to warm up his feet so we stopped in parking lot so he could walk around and wiggle his toes. I tried drinking more, but my bottle was completely frozen and the ice just rattled inside. Sarah thankfully gave me some gatorade (hint: gatorade has a lower freezing point because of the sodium!!!). Just as we were getting ready to go we saw bikes approaching--John and Grant!! We must have passed them while they were stopped for coffee or something. Just having a bigger group perked us up somewhat and we kept riding as the sun sank below the horizon.

Somehow we made it into Milwaukee and saw blinkies flashing up ahead--stragglers from the fast group! Woo hoo--our numbers swelled and we all became full of energy. I don't know if it was the excitement of riding in a city, the closeness of our destination or the large group--but we flew the eight miles through Milwaukee. We made it there in ten hours (including a bagel/coffee break, long lunch, and numerous 'mini-breaks'. The racers had been there long before us and cheered as we walked in. mmm--warmth, pizza and no pedalling--wonderful. Plus my friends Steph, Shalan and Steve were there waiting for me.

Everytime another group of people came in we cheered--but the loudest, longest welcome was for the last two people--Stoner and Todd. Both of these men suffer from degenerative muscle diseases--Stoner's is pretty advanced and he has a hard time speaking, his hands are twisted weirdly and his walk is very awkward. Todd rode a recumbent and lent Stoner his tadpole recumbent for this ride. In the past twenty years the longest Stoner rode in a day was 50 miles--so this was really going to be challenging for him. He's a great guy and him doing this ride is amazing.


I woke up fully rested and hydrated and made it to the River West coffeshop on time. Yippee. The weather was sunny and my muscles didn't feel sore at all--but my left knee ached pretty badly. We waited a while for Hui Hwa and Mark to show up and then biked about five miles to meet the rest of the group. Holy Fucking Headwind. I knew in these five miles that I wouldn't make it back home on my bike. No Way--No How. Sam and another guy decided to take Amtrak back to Chicago--and damn did that sound tempting. I thought that I'd try to at least make it to Kenosha and catch a train there--but I seriously expected to catch a hitchiker's sag wagon to Kenosha.

Grant convinced me to ride with him even though I said I felt weak. He said I was a strong rider and would be able to do this. The bike I rode was borrowed from his wife Anne, and she charged him with the responsibility of making sure I was OK on the ride. He is an experienced bike tourer and she knew how freaked/scared/nervous I was about this ride.

The messenger-racer group left earlier and the two 'normal' groups pulled out as one, before Sarah, Grant, and I dropped them. The wind was incredibly strong and made the hills ridiculously hard (we even had to work on the downhill). Flags were snapping violently in this wind and leaves, dirt and trash tumbled toward us in the road. It absolutely sucked and we only were able to ride about 11 mph--while my knee yelled at me and my muscles went on strike. Several times I almost dropped myself to hitchhike. We were stopped at an abandoned gas station to scarf down more food, drink water and rest from the wind about 15 miles into the ride when Hui Hwa and Mark rode by--but they didn't want to stop. Then as we were leaving, Steffen was in sight--he didn't really fit into any single group and mostly rode on his own schedule. Steffen is a long-distance tourer and a really strong, but not necessarily fast rider. Plus he is Big on his bike. Large double-paniers + a tall, broad-shouldered man= Perfect for drafting.

We rode together taking turns drafting--but Grant and Steffen did far more than their share. We caught up with Mark and Hui Hwa and our group got bigger and the ride felt better--but still extremely hard and tiring. Each of us spent less time pulling and more time drafting. We stopped for lunch in Racine and John and Tim met up with us--more links in our chain.

However, Sarah said her knee was hurting her. I realized then that my knee pretty much stopped hurting when I was riding, started hurting when we stopped and went away after riding for a bit. Also, because simply pedalling was so grueling, other discomforts weren't really noticeable.

Sarah's knee just kept getting worse and we slowed the pace down for her. This was my salvation--and I slowly started to feel stronger. We made short frequent stops to give her knee a break and it wasn't looking good for her at all. Plans were discussed as to how she could get home, but she kept riding.

Besides slowing the pace down, this showed how great the group was. Earlier, I felt like I should drop myself in part because I wasn't pulling as much as Grant, John and Steffens. I basically assumed that they resentfully considered me a wussy heap of dead weight that was hindering the group. But watching them respond to Sarah, made me realize that they wanted everyone to finish. They accepted their position as stronger riders and didn't mind doing more work. It really felt like we were really a team and all in it together. Instead of getting grumpy about the slower pace and frequent stops that we took for Sarah, everyone just seemed concerned about how she was doing and making the ride easier for her. Damn cool--considering that had they just dumped the slower riders they probably would have gotten to Chicago about two hours earlier.

A large part of me expecting the stronger riders to think poorly of me as a rider was because I am a girl. I thought that my weaker-rider status would be blamed on my gender--not because this was my first long ride, not because I didn't have clipless shoes or toe-clips, not because I was riding a bike too big and not because I started the ride tired and hung over. Nope--I assumed that they would attribute my weaker riding to the fact that I'm a girl. I wonder about this--because when it comes to physical ability, this is my primary concern. If I were just an out-of-shape uncoordinated boy--what then would I be afraid that people would attribute my physical shortcomings to?

Anyway, we stopped for frozen custard at about the halfway point, in Zion, Sarah took some painkillers, Steffen and Tim left us and the wind calmed down a bit. The riding improved and we also learned that T.C. rode up from Chicago to meet us, and we'd join him in minutes. For some reason this gesture bouyed my spirits dramatically (TC is the guy who 'kidnapped' my doll and was the catalyst for my hung-over, dehydrated Saturday). At this point I realized that I was going to make it home.

TC met up with us and got a flat after riding with us for about one block. He has a reputation of being a fast and incredibly strong rider, so he told us he would catch up soon. We caught up then with Stoner and Todd (they left earlier in the day and didn't dawdle for lunch to compensate) and stopped to rest and chat a bit. TC then met up with us and our group seemed huge.

Then it started to rain. I forgot to bring my 'snow pants' which are almost completely waterproof. My jacket isn't waterproof either. So I got wet. The last 30-40 miles I rode wet. At several stops I was able to dry out my shirts and jacket using restroom hot air dryers. Silk rocks, because it dries out so quickly.

After another few miles of riding, TC got another flat and Grant dropped back to help him fix it. We didn't see them until we met up at a donut shop in Evanstan--the city just North of Chicago. Our pace just kept creeping faster at this point--I think riding in city traffic just makes it easier to forget being tired. A few miles later TC got another flat and told us he'd meet us at the Handlebar in Chicago. What a frustrating ride for him. We continued riding and cheered when we crossed into Chicago--only nine more miles to my home!! I hope the normal/slow group made it home OK, too.

People dropped off as they turned off to their homes and finally it was my turn. Carrying my bike upstairs was a bitch and my tiredness really kicked in. I wonder exactly how my body will feel tomorrow. I am basically planning on going into work, finishing my 'Monday-Deadline' projects and then bringing the rest of my work home to do in bed.

Overall, the ride was a great experience. I learned how to draft, how to help and how to be helped. I'm still amazed that we made it home against the wind. Plus, I adore some of my bikey friends even more. They rock. Grant was an incredible help both physically and mentally. He was so supportive and such a leader for the group. I don't think I would have made it without him. Sarah was amazing--pulling hard the first day when the rest of us were tired, working through the pain on Sunday to finish the ride, giving me encouragement and accolades throughout the ride AND giving me someone else to worry about instead of just dwelling on my own misery. John was also great by being positive and pulling more than his share.

Here are some nuts and bolts of the ride in case anyone cares:

Route: Hwy 32 & sheridan road.

What I ate:

Saturday--hashbrowns, power bagel, coffee (yes--more dehydration!), brownie, huevos rancheros/beans/rice (lunch). Pizza in Milwaukee.

Sunday--peanut butter sandwich, orange, chocolate croissant, meatball sub, soup, two cookies, scone, frozen custard sunday.

Temperature: Saturday: 24-32 degrees, Sunday: 32-38 degrees.

Wind--against it both days, Saturday only about 8mph, Sunday, 1st half about 20 mph (maybe more--it was wicked strong), dropping to almost nothing by Chicago.

Clothing: Steel-toed boots, cotton under-socks, tights (normal women tights, not athletic), thick wool over-socks, yoga pants, (underpants--day 1), tanktop, silk turtleneck, merino wool shirt (Day 2 only, thanks again Frick), shell, cycling gloves, cotton mittens, windproof gauntlets, sunglasses. [why did I wear an extra shirt on the warmer day?]

Doll: she made the whole trip just fine--the rest of us were wet and splattered with muck--but she stayed dry and clean. My leg must have shielded her from the flying muck.


At 12:25 PM, Blogger equipoise said...

Wow! - that's about all I can say. Congrats on finishing this bad boy - sounds like an incredible experience. I would have had a hard time not hopping the Amtrak home. So way to go. Hope all of you recover from the pain (especially those whose knees were giving them trouble - yikes!)

One questions - don't steel-toed boots make your toes cold?

At 3:39 PM, Blogger Frick said...

First of all, good job. That's mega cool that you did it.

There's a certain kind of injury that goes away while you working out, but comes back when you stop. I forget what part it is. Then again, I've done things stupider than that and haven't had any longer term negative effects.

Also, the merino works best as a base layer. If you keep it on your skin, it'll keep you warm even in the rain. I'm not sure if that's the case with silk, which I assume you had under the merino.

At 5:59 PM, Blogger Frick said...

Oh yeah, How much work do get done in bed?

At 6:49 PM, Blogger jojo said...

E: Steel-toed boots certainly can be a problem with the cold. I wear them because they are too big, so all of those socks fit well (and because I like to think about kicking things while wearing them, of course). What works great is to put the boots in front of a heater and warm the steel up--that stays toasty for quite a while.

The bigger problem with them is that each one weighs almost two pounds (1 lb, 14.+ ozs). My feet are probably the worst place to carry this additional weight.

Boys: Thanks for the congratulations--I'm more than pleased with myself. This however is nothing compared with both of your no-training marathon baptisms.

I actually feel completely fine today.

F: I stayed at work all day, but didn't do any work. Normally I don't work from home--because I don't get anything done.

I wore the merino wool shirt over my very thin tank top, and under my looser silk turtleneck. This worked really well, because when I was zipped up I had lots of capitive air to insulate, but when I unzipped, the wind tore through the silk to cool me down.


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